FAIRBORN — The Fairborn Civic Band will present their 25th anniversary celebration concert at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 31 at Central Park, 222 S. Central Ave. The concert celebrates a quarter century of the civic band, which over the years has given an opportunity for local residents to make music together.
The concert will feature some of the band’s favorite concert pieces, director Gary Johnson said, including Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, Africa by Toto (Africa), and others. The audience will also enjoy selections “honoring heroes of flight” Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh, and the music of John Williams from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Barbara Parsons, former Fairborn High School teacher, will serve as Master of Ceremonies for the concert. Parsons taught at Fairborn High School for 30 years before her retirement in 2001. She taught current and past members of the band, serves on the Fairborn Veterans Memorial Committee, and is described by Johnson as “a treasure to the Fairborn community.”
“The band is wonderful,” she said. “This is an honor for me. They work so hard and put so much effort into it, and it shows.”
The band was formed when longtime Fairborn resident and trumpeter Jim Leatherman teamed up with Bob D’Epiro, former Fairborn City Schools band director, to form a band for adults. Leatherman, who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, had been wanting to form a local band since he transferred to Wright-Patt in 1970, according to his wife Rena. In 1976, Leatherman was a trumpeter in the Fairborn Bicentennial Band, but the musicians disbanded after the Independence Day festivities.
Leatherman and D’Epiro then formed the Fairborn Civic Band in 1995, with an emphasis on getting musicians, whose talent had grown rusty since high school or college, “back in the swing of things.” D’Epiro recruited Johnson to direct the band in 1996, and the band’s first performance was the Fourth of July parade that year.
“When you settle in a community you want to get involved, and Jim’s involvement included the civic band, but also city council and the planning board,” Rena Leatherman said.
Jim Leatherman died in 2011, but played trumpet in the Fairborn Civic Band up until the year of his death.
“You seldom get involved with a civilian community as you’re wandering around [in the Air Force],” Rena Leatherman added. “It’s hard to get deeply acquainted with a city until you move there.”
Rena, a handbell player, was a percussionist with the civic band for years. She and her husband would play handbell and trumpet with one another, “any time I could find music that put the two together,” she said.
The Fairborn Civic Band recently combined with AC Strings to form the Fairborn Regional Orchestra (FRO), which Johnson describes as “an incredible boast for our Fairborn community.”
“It’s been great. I’ve missed very few of their concerts,” she added.
The FRO collaboration continues with biannual concerts during the summer and Christmas season, and will perform at the Fairborn Sweet Corn Festival.
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.